Tobacco Companies Transparency Bill

Blog post by Bob Blackman MP, chairman of the APPG on Smoking & Health about his Ten Minute Rule Bill . [1]

The Bill I recently introduced to parliament requires the collection and publication of national and international tobacco industry data on profits, taxes paid, product prices, marketing and research spending, and local data on sales of all products.

Tobacco manufacturers already collect this data. At least some of it is already provided to HM Revenue and Customs as well as to the Department of Health and Social Care, under existing Regulations. But it’s not made public, and the Regulations only allow the Government to publish information on ingredients and emissions from tobacco products, not sales and marketing data. [2] It is possible to buy at least some of the data from private companies, and Bath University academics were able to use such information to make a strong case for a minimum excise tax on cigarettes, which the government implemented.[3] But commercially available data is both expensive and incomplete.  I want the Government to publish the data they collect – to help develop tobacco control policies at national, regional and local level. It would also provide useful insight into the illicit market. [4] Similar rules are now in force in Canada, [5] New Zealand [6] and in the US, [7] so there is no good reason why the UK cannot do the same.

We should never forget that two of the four major transnational tobacco manufacturers (BAT and Imperial) are based in the UK, even though all cigarette manufacturing in the UK has now ceased. And of course, around 80,000 people a year still die from smoking related disease every year in England alone, while the global yearly death toll as a result of tobacco use is currently 7 million and is expected to rise to around 10 million a year by 2030. [8] Full disclosure of any information that can inform policies to reduce these shocking numbers must be a top public health priority. This is the clear intent behind the World Health Organisation Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, to which the UK is a Party.[9] The UK has an international duty to ensure that the industry is as tightly regulated as possible, and that this regulation and the provision of information about the industry supports tobacco control in other countries.

The tobacco manufacturers remain enormously profitable, both in the UK and internationally. Yet over the last seven years, during which time Corporation Tax rates have varied between 20 to 28%, BAT paid virtually no corporation tax in the UK, including four consecutive years from 2011-14 where they paid nothing at all. [10] The Tax Justice Network report published earlier this week shows that its not just the UK losing out on taxes, BAT is also paying little or no corporate taxes in low and middle income countries. Data on sales and related information would support the development of policies to ensure the tobacco industry pays taxes at a level that properly reflects the damage it causes.




[1] House of Commons Hansard: Tuesday 9th April

[2] The Tobacco and Related Products Regulations 2016

[3] Treasury consultation on minimum excise tax: August 2014

[4] Understanding tobacco industry pricing strategy and whether it undermines tobacco tax policy: the example of the British cigarette market: Gilmore A et al, Journal of Public Health 2014  

[5] Regulations Amending the Tobacco Reporting Regulations: SOR/2019-64. Government of Canada

[6] Tobacco Control Data Repository: New Zealand Health Promotion Agency

[7] FTC report on cigarette and smokeless tobacco sales and marketing expenditure 2017: published Feb 2019

8 Smoking statistics, ASH Factsheet, updated November 2018

[9] WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control

[10] The failure of the UK to tax adequately tobacco company profits: Branston R and Gilmore A, Journal of Public Health, 6 Feb 2019